Chinese embassy lashes out at Canada over Spavor, Kovrig cases

Sarah Zheng

The Chinese embassy in Canada has urged the Canadian government to stop making “irresponsible remarks” about the detention of two Canadians in China.

In a statement on Saturday, the embassy demanded that Canada stop pressuring Beijing about the cases of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and free Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese technology giant Huawei Technologies.

Meng was arrested in Canada in December 2018 to face extradition to the US on fraud charges, while Kovrig and Spavor have been accused of spying in China.

“The Chinese side reiterates again that the Canadian side needs to take China’s position seriously, respect the rule of law and China’s judicial sovereignty, and stop making irresponsible remarks about the Kovrig and Spavor cases,” an embassy spokesman said.

“The facts of the two criminals are clear and the evidence is true and sufficient – there is no so-called arbitrary detention.”

Relations between Canada and China plunged after Meng’s arrest, with the subsequent detention of Kovrig and Spavor seen by critics as acts of “hostage diplomacy”.

Beijing has accused Canada of arresting Meng at the behest of Washington to hurt Chinese tech ambitions. It has also insisted the two Canadians face serious espionage charges, while Ottawa has dismissed their arrest as “politically motivated” arbitrary detention.

The Chinese embassy also objected on Saturday to “misleading” Canadian media reports on comments by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

Zhao said on Wednesday that the suspension of Meng’s extradition process “could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians”. The remarks were seen by many as tacit acknowledgement by Beijing that the fates of Kovrig and Spavor were tied to that of Meng, who has been under house arrest in Vancouver awaiting extradition proceedings.

“The Meng Wanzhou incident is completely different from the Kovrig and Spavor cases,” the embassy said. “The Meng Wanzhou incident was a serious political incident of the US trying to suppress Chinese hi-tech companies and Huawei. The Canadian side was an accomplice to the US – this was the real ‘arbitrary detention’.”

Pressure is mounting on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to secure the release of Kovrig and Spavor, with 19 former Canadian diplomats and politicians appealing to the Canadian leader to end Meng’s extradition trial to “clear the way for Canada to freely decide and declare its position on all aspects of the China-Canada relationship”.

Trudeau rejected those calls, saying that Canada “cannot allow political pressures or random arrests of Canadian citizens to influence the functioning of our justice system”.

Vina Nadjibulla, Kovrig’s wife, broke her silence in a series of media interviews last week to appeal for the release of the two Canadians, who she said were suffering and paying the price for something they had nothing to do with.

“Detaining an innocent man and inflicting so much suffering on him and his family does not in any way serve the interests of China – in fact it does the opposite,” she said.

“It sends a chilling effect to all those people who are interested in building bridges with China, to all the people that are interested in a world that is more peaceful and just. This is unfair. This is unnecessary. And a great nation does not need to engage in hostage diplomacy or use people as pawns to prosecute its foreign policy.”

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